A multi-billion dollar, 20-year election promise of a four-way expressway to Tauranga is being met with scepticism and optimism from Bay of Plenty leaders.
New National leader Judith Collins has promised that, if elected, National would spend $17 billion on a four-lane expressway from Whangārei to Tauranga, including tunnels under the Kaimai and Brynderwyn ranges.
This would be completed in 2040.
The $17b would be spent on projects in the upper North Island, including Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga and Whangārei, from a $31b pool of money for infrastructure.
Tauranga Labour list MP Jan Tinetti said National needed to come clean on which projects it would cut to fund the transport wish list.
Former Tauranga mayor Greg Brownless said many people felt "let down by the seeming reluctance to put money into infrastructure in the area".
The current Government came into power during his term as mayor and he said he felt "let down" after work on the Northern Arterial roading scheme was stopped.
"I think it did huge damage to the ongoing roading network in the area."
Brownless said another tunnel would be beneficial should something happen to the only tunnel that connected the city to the upper-north.
"It recognises Tauranga as such an important port city.
"It would really enable that alliance we have with Auckland, Whangarei ... as far as business goes.
"I'm really excited to see someone taking action; no ifs, no buts, no maybes."
But it was the "if" in Collins' announcement that left Western Bay of Plenty mayor Garry Webber cautious.
"It's got such a big 'if' in front of it. You don't want to build up public expectation on an 'if we get elected'. It's not good planning," he said.
"We've been waiting for the Katikati bypass for nearly 30 years. It's always 'if elected we will do, after elected, we do not do'."
Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell said it was "huge news for Tauranga".
He told the Bay of Plenty Times that, presuming the expressway would come to Tauranga via Hamilton, it was good news for the Golden Triangle and its vital freight routes.
He said Tauranga had been "hamstrung for so long" with congestion and needed more support from central Government to make progress.
"What we need is bold vision and the planning to see it through. It's all about execution."
The announcement was raised in the Tauranga City Council Annual Plan meeting by Councillor Steve Morris - a former National Party candidate - during a discussion about bus shelters.
"Buses are good at crushing congestion, but what's better at crushing congestion is Judith Collins."
He said of the plan for a Kaimai tunnel: "that's bold, that's leadership, that's huge news for Tauranga".
Tauranga Labour list MP Jan Tinetti said National needed to come clean on what projects it would cut to fund the transport wish list, and projects in the region could be put at risk.
"The plan includes $6.2b in reallocation of existing projects from the current National Land Transport Fund, so National needs to say what projects it will cut.
"We need certainty now around jobs created from shovel-ready projects."
The Government's Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund has set aside $3b for infrastructure projects across the country, additional to the $12b New Zealand Upgrade Programme and Provincial Growth Fund infrastructure investments.
Tinetti said the Tauranga Northern Link had been funded by the Labour party and would have four lanes to Omokoroa.
National's transport spokesman Chris Bishop it would create jobs for locals.
"This is the biggest infrastructure package ever announced.
"Better transport connections with Auckland and the Upper North Island will be hugely beneficial to both local businesses as well as holidaymakers.
Employers and Manufacturers Association chief executive Brett O'Riley said that the road plan would be "very welcomed" by Whangarei and the Far North members.
"Overall National's plan creates a genuine transport spine for the 'Golden Triangle' from Whangarei via Auckland through Hamilton and on to Tauranga with major and much-needed projects in and around all of those cities.
"That's a significant investment in the EMA's region and will help facilitate the economic growth and productivity gains that New Zealand needs," O'Riley said.
The money to pay for the $31 billion worth of projects will come from more borrowing, future budgets and the Covid-19 recovery fund.
A National Government would allow the NZ Transport Agency to borrow more money.
In addition to the NZTA borrowing, $7 billion from the Covid-19 Response package – announced by the current Government but close to $20 billion remains unallocated – will be used to fund projects.
The rest will come from future budgets.